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Australia Police to Resort to Hackers to Find Missing Victims Using Crowdsourcing

By Alex Nimoy Oct. 14, 2019, 9 a.m.

Over the years, the traditional method of searching for disappeared individuals has become less effective as over 2000 names listed makes it a near impossible to effectively locate the whereabouts of the victims. In order to make it more easier to locate missing victims, the Australia police have turned to hackers to employ a more advanced approach through crowdsourcing to locate missing victims. The crowdsourcing approach will also help to offset the many weaknesses of the traditional “poster” approach of searching for victims.

Crowdsourcing basically deals with obtaining information and opinion from a wide range of people whose data are found on social media, smartphones and the internet. After the call, about 350 ethical hackers- professionals and hobbyists who honoured the call on Today gathered in 10 different locations in the country’s national missing person “hackathon”. The idea is to take advantage of the hacking skills of the individuals, using crowdsourcing to turn the search into an interesting game.

In their recent meeting, they sought to engage the hackers to generate leads of 12 most sophisticated cases of Australia’s missing victims using a more advanced but legal approach. After the first operation, it was revealed that the competing teams generated 100 leads in every 10 minutes which was termed as a success.

According to Linda Cavanagh, of the Canberra Cyber Security Innovation Node, the door was opened for information security hobbyist, cybersecurity professionals, cooperate teams as well as the overall members of the community and students to participate.

In order not to flout any law with their crowdsourcing approach in a bid to find missing victims, the organizers ensured that the operation was engaged within the parameters of the law. They also took a further step to avoid breaking laws by offering publicly available information to hackers.

Hacking has over the years been seen in a different light as many people associate it to illegal activities than the positive things it can serve. In a way of assembling hackers to use their skills to locate missing victims, individuals with this skills may be informed that hacking into public and private companies’ accounts to steal sensitive information and display them for sale on the dark web is not the only thing to apply their skills for. They can actually operate within the parameter of the law to save lives with their skills.

Cavanagh established that a number of police departments in other countries have used this approach to find missing victims with the help of Open Source Intelligence (OSNIT) enthusiasts. However, Australia has become the first country to use the crowdsourcing approach in an attempt to locate missing victims on a national scale.

Open Source Intelligence is a new way of spycraft used to obtain information from public source, basically websites. It is very effective in data analysis primarily used by professionals. A few weeks ago, this technique was used to analyze a video that had to do with alleged mass detention and the brutal treatment of the Uyghur community in China.

The introduction of dangerous malware used to infect the computer system of private and public institutions has been in the news lately, and so, it is interesting to know and understand that there is a technique used by professional hackers to do good in the society.

Dan Holman, a co-founder of Canberra-based business WorldStack, was said to have used the OSNIT technique to find missing victims as well as people who were hiding. It was also reported that this firm recently used the same technique to help an organization to find a cyber-attacker who hacked the sensitive information of the company and demanded a ransom.

In order to help find some of the 12 missing victims, Holman and his firm have built a search index of content on the dark web to track the whereabouts of the missing victims. Through his data analysis ability and the OSNIT technique, he intends to use image matching software to run a thorough search on the dark web to find missing victims.

With the image matching software, they are hoping to compare all the photos from this event to the photos indexed from the dark web to see if there will be any possible match. Through this, it can be established if a located missing victim was used in human trafficking or whatever the case may be.

It is possible that the initiation of this technique using professional hackers would soon be adopted by other countries on a national scale to accelerate the identification of missing victims who were not found through the traditional method of “posters”.

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